Saturday, January 30, 2010

1200 kcal of skiing

Bow, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Snow, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Skiing blur, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

We went today skiing with the wife. I spent 1200 kcal of energy in one hour and a quarter, according to my Polar heart-rate monitor.

Afterwards, I felt tired. I hope this is not due to the vomiting sickness which is going around in the family, starting from our youngest daughter, transmitted from her kindergarten group. It may be caused by a norovirus, as the symptoms are very strong indeed.

Here are three photographs taken during the skiing excursion. As you can see, we are getting more and more snow almost continuously. The official "depth of snow" figure from the Helsinki-Vantaa airport nearby is 53 cm. That is a lot.

Update: Regarding the norovirus epidemic, there is a fascinating story in New Scientist, titled I, virus: Why you're only half human, referring to the fact that 34 percent of our genome are virus-like components.

Friday, January 29, 2010


Reflect, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Last photograph from the trip to Dublin, a kind of self-portrait. Shiny new hotel bathroom.

Hotel esthetics

Bowl, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Lamp, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Hotel rooms are all the same - and yet different. I like taking photographs in them, and not only to relax after the trip or a meeting. Here are two photographs from the trip to Dublin.

Visiting Dublin

Dublin, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

St Stephens Green, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Newman House, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Trinity College, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Book of Kells, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I visited Dublin on Wednesday and Thursday - a short trip. The flight was through Frankfurt, total travel time was 17 hours, so I was half of the time traveling and half of the time in Dublin, not very nice. But so it is sometimes.

I had only a little time to walk in Dublin and see the city, but I did take a couple of photographs. Here is a selection.

It was quite a change in weather. When I left Finland, the temperature was -23 °C, and in Dublin it was +7 °C. And no snow. (But there had been some, I heard, and it had been bad for the traffic.)

Monday, January 25, 2010

How to manage different light sources?

Moon, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Snow, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Here are two photographs of the same landscape. In the first, I deliberately included three very different light sources: two artificial ones and one natural (moonlight). I feel the result is not good, the colors clash with each other. Here I used the automatic white balance on the LX3. Of course, there is the possibility of tweaking it to get a better balance, but I don't think you can do it well.

In the second image, there is one prevalent light source, and here I could have tweaked the image so that the color balance would match. However, I chose not to, to think a bit whether the image would work as it is now.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

More snow?

Branching, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Frosted branches, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Three, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today we got some more snow. And it was cold, between -17 and -22 °C. I took some photographs of the landscape, which was almost black and white in itself, not much color visible anywhere. Here are three photographs, one of them is not b&w, although I debated whether I should convert is as well.

I have been thinking about cameras, once again. The combination of Olympus E-P1 camera and Panasonic Lumix G 20mm / F1.7 lens does tempt. On the other hand, there are once again rumors about a LX3 replacement from Panasonic, and about a new G-series micro 4/3 camera from Panasonic.

So, my resolution is to wait, for now. And I'm still discovering new things with my LX3, it continues to provide opporturnities to learn about photography.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

It is good to be skiing

Red barn, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Blue landscape, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Treetops, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today was a cold day, temperature between -16 and -21 °C. It was good to be outside. I did some more cross-country skiing, which provides excellent exercise. I wore the Polar heart-rate monitor, which told that I used 800 kcal in one hour of skiing.

Here are three photographs from today. Sunny and bright, cold and blue.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Do photographs lie?

Shadows, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Snow, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Snow on branches, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

During winter nights, when the street lamps cast variously colored light on the landscape, it is very different to be "true" to the way the human eye sees the landscape. One option is black-and-white, but that is also different from the eye.

How do you feel about this? Is it acceptable to select the color balance according to the photographer's artistic instinct, or should one use some kind of "normal" setting? (Whatever that is.) Or then not to take any photographs where there are such potential problems.

Here are three examples, taken today and yesterday.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Skiing - great exercise

Skiing, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Lights, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Treeline and moon, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

This winter is great for cross-country skiing here in Finland. I have already done more skiing than during last winter. (Which isn't much, though...)

Our youngest daughter is especially keen in learning to ski, and she is starting to be quite skilled already. In fact, she surprised us with her skills today. Small hills - up and down - are no longer problems for her, and she knows several ways of proceeding on flat terrain. And there is (I hope) a lot of winter ahead. Who knows how much she will learn.

It is a pity we seldom have such winters. In fact, many adults (30+ year age group) are this winter eagerly attending courses on cross-country skiing, according to newspapers.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A walk outside

Path and crescent, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Path, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Branching, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I went out with the chldren well after sunset. There were only a little of clouds, so it was quite dark if the street lamps weren't nearby. Here are three photographs, all taken with a mini-tripod and longish exposures.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Out of kilter

Blur, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Hyporeality, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Lamps, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Here are three photographs, all somewhat "manipulated": motion blur, out-of-focus, color balance. (Today was a day of experimentation.)

I went for a walk outside a bit after sunset, when it started to get dark. The blue sky and the street lamps started to dominate the colors of the landscape. Instead of aiming for sharp results, I thought to go for unsharp.

First, some exercises in motion blur. Not too bad, snow and the trunks of birches fit nicely together. Then, hyporeality - deliberate out-of-focus experimentation. Once again, interesting.

Last, trying to catch the blue of the night and the orange-tinted streetlights in the same photograph. The result is much more dramatic than in reality. But once again, I like it.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Tulips and snow

Tulips, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Forest edge, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Tulips provide some color inside the house, it is good to have something like this now that we are in the deep of the winter.

Outside, today was again a good day for skiing. But the sun was not visible, it was hiding behind a thick layer of clouds.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cross-country skiing

Treeline, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Skiing, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Bow, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today was a fine day for cross-country skiing. Wife and I had a look at the nearby landscape on skiis, here are two photographs from the excursion.

Update: Added one more photograph - a b&w one.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Subject vs. composition - where is the beef?

Glass and tiles, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Majvik, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Pines, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

On various blogs there has been an eager discussion on the topic of subject vs. composition in photography - see Paul Butzi for a view on the matter.

I can't help feeling that this is a variation of the chicken and egg problem - which is not very constructive. Perhaps a better question would be: Which should be first, chicken or the idea of the chicken? In any case, I feel that both the subject and a potential composition can act as an inspiration for a photograph. So what? For me, photography is a process of searching for a meaning in the world, of seeing.

Here are three photographs taken today, at hotel Majvik, all three containing aspects of "subject" and "composition". Whether they are meaningful photographs, I can't say.

For some photographs, the composition is the source of inspiration, for some, the subject, for some, both.

PS. All three photographs are examples of low-light, handheld situation. I'm still debating the merits of the Olympus E-P1, perhaps closer to a decision...

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Majvik, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Steps, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today and tomorrow I'm in a seminar. Here are two photographs, one from early morning and one from the lunch break. The place is Majvik, a rather good looking hotel in a beautiful environment near Helsinki.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How long exposures handheld?

Handheld, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I have occasionally taken 1/4 and 1/2 second handheld exposures with the LX3, but nowadays I'm usually just using a mini-tripod in low-light conditions, or then using the motion blur as a element of the photograph. But today I tried how long I can go, and did a set of handheld exposures aiming for a sharp result.

This is the best example from the set, taken with a 0.6 second exposure (ISO 200, f/2.0). But the rest were not too bad either, only about 1 in 3 was completely unacceptable. If you look at the image in full resolution, you see some blur, but all in all it is not too bad, taking into account the length of the exposure. Rather good image stabilization on the LX3.

A study of snow and light

Waiting for spring, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Bus blues, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Roadside lights, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Here are three photographs taken today night, when the street lamps of various types are the prevalent light source. Today we had low-hanging clouds and a little bit of fog, which generated an interesting mixture of colored light from above.

In the last photograph you see clearly the differences of the different lights, and the image doesn't work so well, although it does have some interesting properties. (This is continuation to an earlier posting.)

What was interesting to see was how fast the eye adapted to the light source. If you looked at the "colored" shadows, after a while they we no longer colored but a shade of gray. And when you looked away and back, the colors returned for a small moment but there sort of "slithered away", almost like living things trying to avoid not being seen.

One reason for this behavior might be the low overall level of light, thus the eye is working in a mixture of day and night vision modes. You might want to do your own "seeing" experiments during the long winter evenings and nights to find out whether your vision works in a similar manner.

Update: I forgot to mention another kind of study of light. Finnish scientist have invented a new kind of cure for SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder): put led lights into the ears, and this cures the depression in four weeks for almost all patients. Apparently the bones are so thin in the ear canals that the light reaches the brain (or certain key areas of the brain), starting the production of hormones. But I'm not yet quite convinced of the reality of this invention.

Enjoying the blue moment

Blue evening, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Blue evening 2, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Here are two photographs taken this evening, after sunset but just before the street lamps etc. are switched on. A special moment, especially today when we had low-hanging clouds and a little bit of fog painting the landscape.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Pondering Olympus E-P1 and Panasonic Lumix G 20mm / F1.7 Asph.

Path, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Frosted forest, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

A shop in Finland is currently selling the combo of E-P1 and the Panasonic 20 mm f/1.7 pancake lens for 800 euro. Also VF-1 is included (the optical viewfinder). And as a bonus, you get the flash unit FL-14 for free from a Olympus promotion (valid until January 31, 2010).

This seems a rather good deal. The combination of the image-stabilized body of the E-P1 and the f/1.7 lens is very close to my imaginary "Finnish winter camera", (almost) able to shoot handheld in available light this time of the year. Basically, it provides an improvement of 2.5 - 3.5 stops over the Panasonic LX3, if you estimate that ISO 400 (or 800) on the E-P1 is the same as ISO 100 on the LX3.

The images shown here were taken with a mini-tripod and the LX3. It would be possible to get rid of the mini-tripod with the E-P1 and shoot handheld only.

But I'm still debating. I like to keep things simple, and the LX3 is a simple tool to use. Learning yet another tool doesn't seem an attractive proposition at this moment.

But... I'm still debating.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Snow, fog, ice... and now something else: frost

Frost, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Tree shapes, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Goal, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

The landscape changed suddenly once more, after the fog yesterday. Now tree brances, fences etc. are covered in frost, 1 cm layer of it or even more. As the frost is grayer than snow in color, the tone of the landscape is subtly different. Here are three photographs taken today.

I have been reading (in Finnish) books of Juha Seppälä, an author highly regarded by literature critics, and three-time candidate for the "Finlandia price", the highest regarded fiction price in Finland, and a winner of several other prices.

As I understand it, although Seppälä can sustain himself as a writer, he is not one of the big sellers in Finland. But his writing provides a feast for the demanding reader, especially his experimentation with the forms of writing (novels, short stories) and his description of the everyday life and happenings from a rather dark but humorous/satiristic viewpoint.

His style is quite spare, no long descriptions or metaforas, but between the lines there is a strong message coming through. Often the apparent subject and the metatext of the writing are opposite to each other, so you need to be able to "read between the lines".

I guess Juha Seppälä's text open best for those who have tried writing in some form and who know how hard it is to capture the sense of effortless description of everyday things. In that sense at least, he is a writers' writer, providing a learning experience to other writers.

I'm pondering whether are there similarly photographers who may not be well known but who provide a learning and motivating role for other photographers? And who they might be?

I can suggest one name, but he doesn't fulfill the "not well known" criteria: Sam Abell. At least he has provided a big learning experience for me.